Old School: A Life Lesson on Aging

Old School: A Life Lesson on Aging

My limbs are heavy as I struggle to get out of bed. When I swing my legs over the side of the mattress, my feet hit the floor with a plunk as though I am wearing army boots and not socks. I stare down at my footwear not because there’s anything interesting about my plain white anklets but because my body is stooped and I can neither sit straight or fully look up. Within this limited field of vision, I manage to find my shoes and put them on, but the laces befuddle me. I get them tied, and slowly stand. Pitter-patter let’s get at ‘er, I think. Only then do I realize that my world is yellow.

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When bingo is not enough

When bingo is not enough

It’s a small group, nine in total, the eldest of whom is 103. Beyond the facilitator and the program’s creator  – the remaining seven participants are long-term care residents at Schlegel Village’s Wentworth Heights in Hamilton, Ontario. The group is one of many that gathers once or twice a week in the site’s non-denominational chapel to sip coffee or tea, sing a few songs and talk “into” an Aboriginal talking stick. The stick serves as visual cue meant to signal respect for the speaker and, passed upon request from participant to participant, ensures everyone gets a turn.

After the opening upbeat sing-along, a participant picks a topic from the dozens listed in a guidebook resting on the centre of the table. Being Yourself? Making Amends? Death and Dying? No, today they are talking about gratitude, a general theme yet one that seems to inspire folks to drill deeply into their own experiences.

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